When It Comes to Millennials, HR Ahead of Marketing

Workplace impact, not marketing, continues to dominate the published literature about Millennials.  Articles and books anticipating the coming “Millennial Invasion” of the workplace began as early as 2004 and have continued without stopping. Today, books advising managers regarding attracting, retaining, and motivating Millennial talent and managing the expectations and conflicting work styles of multiple generations in the workplace occupies an entire shelf in my office.

Millennials Are ReShaping the Workplace

Studies about job expectations have repeatedly shown Gen Y is different. They have different priorities and are willing to change jobs frequently to get what they want, even in a bad economy. There are over two dozen links to studies of Millennials in the workplace on our wiki, including studies by Deloitte, Citrix, the Center for Creative Leadership, The Wall Street Journal, Accenture, Lexis-Nexis, Steelcase as well as universities and social scientists.

Wall Street Journal featured an interview with Dennis Nally, Chairman of Price Waterhouse Coopers. The article, titled “PwC Chairman Aims to Keep Millennials Happy” makes it clear that Millennial talent is on this chairman’s mind. Since WSJ is a pay-wall site, I’ll quote the relevant part here:

WSJ:What’s the biggest challenge for companies when trying to recruit talented staff?

Mr. Nally:The competition for talent in the emerging markets has never been greater and that’s placing a lot of pressure on salaries. Having a competitive compensation base is really important. It’s [also] about how to create an environment where people want to be. This millennial generation is not just looking for a job, they’re not just looking for salary and financial benefits, they’re looking for skill development, they’re looking for mobility, they’re looking for opportunities to acquire different skills and to move quickly from one part of an organization to another. How you manage that sort of talent and how you deal with their expectations is very different from what’s been done in the past. So, clearly articulating your people strategy, what you can deliver and importantly what you expect in return is key. Connecting with your employees so they understand you can deliver the career they want is key.


What About Marketing?

Nally’s comments are pretty strong stuff – and given it is the Chairman articulating the difference, I believe PwC when it says it has made Millennials a top priority.

Yet, marketing seems slower to catch on to this enlightened view. Aside from a few high profile companies for whom Millennials are a critical audience, how many CMOs have recognized the fundamental difference and acted to make Millennial marketing a priority? 

Aside from a few high profile cases like Pepsi, Ford and State Farm, I suspect that many are still hopeful that as Millennials age into their target cohort, marry and have children, they will start looking like the familiar 25-54 year old customers we have grown to know and love.  I think this is wishful thinking. Why should Millennials who are so different today start looking like their parents tomorrow? I don’t think they will trade their mobility for houses in the suburbs and big automobiles, just to give their kids the kind of childhood they may have enjoyed.

What do you think?